TBR News October 17, 2017

Oct 17 2017

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C., October 17, 2017:” “In April 1942, President Roosevelt told Stimson, Secretary of War, to secretly fund a program to develop botulism and anthrax weapons for use against the Germans.

The project was shelved when it was discovered that the Germans had developed nerve gasses, Tabun, Sarin and Soman, that were terrible in nature and which would surely be used in retaliation if the U.S. attempted to poison the German civil population.

This information is contained in the Stimson “Safe File” in the United States National Archives.

And at the port of Bari in southern Italy, on December 2, 1943, an American freighter containing a full load of mustard gas was blown up by a German Luftwaffe bombing attack and the death toll from the released gas was in the thousands.

This was another failed Roosevelt plan to gas the German troops in Italy who were proving very difficult to defeat on the battlefield.”


Table of Contents

  • Trump’s art of the deal? Backslide and alienate all stakeholders
  • Is War With Iran Now Inevitable?
  • Catalan government will not respond to Madrid’s order on Thursday: TV3
  • The great thaw of America’s north is coming
  • The Legacy of Reagan’s Civilian ‘Psyops’
  • CIA Control of the Internet    
  • Envisioning an America Free From Police Violence and Control


Trump’s art of the deal? Backslide and alienate all stakeholders

October 14, 2017

by Finian Cunningham


US President Donald Trump never stops bragging about his business genius for deal-making. He supposedly authored a best-selling book about it all. But his latest declaration on the Iran nuclear deal shows his ‘talent’ for blowing deals up – for no gain.

Trump’s much-anticipated announcement Friday to decertify the 2015 international accord was an exercise in alienating all stakeholders in the landmark agreement. Trump’s disavowal of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) fell short of withdrawing from it. But the president has put on notice that he’s ready to terminate it at any time.

There was near unanimous resistance around the world to Trump’s “scalding” speech, as the New York Times described it. Russia, China, and the European powers – the other signatories to the JCPOA – all issued statements rebuking Trump’s verbal broadside. All of them said they remained committed to the deal. The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, sternly stated that the JCPOA was a multilateral agreement ratified by the UN Security Council, which “does not belong to any single country and it is not up to any single country to terminate it.”

If Trump ever considers a new edition of his 1987 book, The Art of the Deal, (which co-author Tony Schwartz disputes Trump even made a written contribution), then he might add two additional chapters: Backsliding and How to Alienate all Stakeholders.

Only Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia welcomed Trump’s disavowal. Hardly a ringing endorsement.

Even within the US there was much resistance to Trump’s latest move. Senior Democrat lawmaker Nancy Pelosi called it an “inexcusable” undermining of the nuclear deal. Former Secretary of State John Kerry said Trump was “dangerously creating an international crisis” by threatening to axe an accord that set strict limits on Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons.

Republican lawmakers have also expressed reluctance to walk away from the deal, even those who were initially opposed to it under the Obama administration. Trump’s proposal to throw the matter over to Congress to decide within 60 days on whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran – thereby scuppering the deal – does not seem likely to be passed given the reluctance among Democrats and Republicans to do that.

Within Trump’s cabinet, there was much dissent towards his hostile position. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis were among those advocating for the US staying on board the JCPOA.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also recommended the US upholding the accord. Dunford testified before Congress earlier this month that Iran was complying with the terms of the deal in adhering to limits on its nuclear program.

Iran’s adherence to the deal has been confirmed by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency. In eight consecutive inspections of Iranian facilities, the IAEA has given Tehran a clean bill of health.

Trump’s alienation of parties over his threat to nix the JCPOA extends to heavyweight American businesses. Boeing, the world’s biggest plane maker, is nervous about the implications for a $16.6 billion sale of passenger jets it is currently negotiating with Iran’s state-owned airline. Bloomberg also reports that General Electric, another American business titan, is apprehensive about the fate of multi-million-dollar investments lined up in Iran.

The question is: why is Trump – the supposed pragmatic business guru – being so recklessly obstreperous over Iran? His jeopardizing of the two-year-old deal makes little sense from an international and domestic political point of view, not to mention formidable American commercial interests.

Not for the first time, Trump’s rhetoric was rabidly aggressive, with the usual litany of accusations, primarily that Iran is the world’s top sponsor of terrorism. Iran immediately rebutted what it called baseless lies and pointed to America’s own record of sponsoring terrorism.

Such was Trump’s aggressive tone that Trita Parsi of the US-based National American-Iranian Council warned it was a collision course for war. Not since President George W. Bush’s infamous 2002 speech about Iran being part of an “axis of evil” has any American leader been so hostile towards Tehran.

At one point, Trump said: “We hope that these new measures directed at the Iranian dictatorship will compel the government to reevaluate its pursuit of terror at the expense of its people.”

He added: “Given the regime’s murderous past and present, we should not take lightly its sinister vision for the future.”

The curious thing about Trump’s announcement was its ideological bombast. He began by referring to the Iranian revolution of 1979 and the American hostage crisis at the US Embassy in Tehran. Trump then proceeded on a tirade of alleged Iranian violations in sponsoring terrorism in the region. Some of Trump’s allegations were nonsensical, such as Iran “supporting al Qaeda.” His claim that Iran is “guilty of multiple violations” of the JCPOA is plainly false, contradicted by international consensus as well as his own senior cabinet members.

Trump’s rant sounded like he had been drilled with boilerplate talking points.

In searching for an explanation as to why Trump seems so bent on ripping up the Iran deal, bear in mind the following:

Trump’s political donors include arch-hawks like Sheldon Adelson. The American Jewish billionaire business magnate reportedly donated $35 million to Trump’s election campaign. It should be recalled that Adelson once publicly called for the US to launch a pre-emptive nuclear strike on Iran. Thus, Trump is paying back favors to his financial backers in taking such an aggressive stance on Iran.

Another reason is that Trump playing to his voter base. For two years before the November election, he was denouncing the Iranian nuclear accord as “the worst deal ever.” He repeatedly vowed to tear it up once in office. While his latest decertification of the JCPOA is not a withdrawal, it nevertheless allows Trump to claim he is delivering on a key campaign promise.

A third factor is the obsession with destroying former President Barack Obama’s political legacy. Like Obamacare and a host of environmental regulations, as well as the international Paris Climate Accord, Trump seems to have an obsession with obliterating his predecessor’s record. The Iran nuclear deal – which took two years to negotiate – is seen as one of Obama’s major achievements.

Still another motive in Trump’s position on the JCPOA is that he is using it as a pawn in US foreign policy goals. Trump wants to renegotiate the deal with further restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile development. He also wants to make Iran’s regional relations, such as support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah, to be criteria for continued US participation in the JCPOA.

Iran, Russia, China, and the Europeans have adamantly ruled out any renegotiation of the accord. Tacitly, the other foreign powers do not share Trump’s offensive depiction of Iran.

But what Trump appears to be aiming at is to use the nuclear accord and the issue of sanctions relief as a lever to force Iranian subordination to American geopolitical goals in the Middle East.

For someone who fancies himself to be a “high IQ” business wonder, Trump is exposing himself to be a rather unimaginative simpleton.


Is War With Iran Now Inevitable?

October 17, 2017

by Patrick J. Buchanan


With his declaration Friday that the Iran nuclear deal is not in the national interest, President Donald Trump may have put us on the road to war with Iran.

Indeed, it is easier to see the collisions that are coming than to see how we get off this road before the shooting starts.

After “de-certifying” the nuclear agreement, signed by all five permanent members of the Security Council, Trump gave Congress 60 days to reimpose the sanctions that it lifted when Teheran signed.

If Congress does not reimpose those sanctions and kill the deal, Trump threatens to kill it himself.

Why? Did Iran violate the terms of the agreement? Almost no one argues that – not the UN nuclear inspectors, not our NATO allies, not even Trump’s national security team.

Iran shipped all its 20 percent enriched uranium out of the country, shut down most of its centrifuges, and allowed intrusive inspections of all nuclear facilities. Even before the deal, 17 U.S. intelligence agencies said they could find no evidence of an Iranian nuclear bomb program.

Indeed, if Iran wanted a bomb, Iran would have had a bomb.

She remains a non-nuclear-weapons state for a simple reason: Iran’s vital national interests dictate that she remain so.

As the largest Shiite nation with 80 million people, among the most advanced in the Mideast, Iran is predestined to become the preeminent power in the Persian Gulf. But on one condition: She avoid the great war with the United States that Saddam Hussein failed to avoid.

Iran shut down any bomb program it had because it does not want to share Iraq’s fate of being smashed and broken apart into Persians, Azeris, Arabs, Kurds and Baluch, as Iraq was broken apart by the Americans into Sunni, Shiite, Turkmen, Yazidis and Kurds.

Tehran does not want war with us. It is the War Party in Washington and its Middle East allies – Bibi Netanyahu and the Saudi royals – who hunger to have the United States come over and smash Iran.

Thus, the Congressional battle to kill, or not to kill, the Iran nuclear deal shapes up as decisive in the Trump presidency.

Yet, even earlier collisions with Iran may be at hand.

In Syria’s east, U.S.-backed and Kurd-led Syrian Democratic Forces are about to take Raqqa. But as we are annihilating ISIS in its capital, the Syrian army is driving to capture Deir Ezzor, capital of the province that sits astride the road from Baghdad to Damascus.

Its capture by Bashar Assad’s army would ensure that the road from Baghdad to Damascus to Hezbollah in Lebanon remains open.

If the U.S. intends to use the SDF to seize the border area, we could find ourselves in a battle with the Syrian army, Shiite militia, the Iranians, and perhaps even the Russians.

Are we up for that?

In Iraq, the national army is moving on oil-rich Kirkuk province and its capital city. The Kurds captured Kirkuk after the Iraqi army fled from the ISIS invasion. Why is a U.S.-trained Iraqi army moving against a U.S.-trained Kurdish army?

The Kurdistan Regional Government voted last month to secede. This raised alarms in Turkey and Iran, as well as Baghdad. An independent Kurdistan could serve as a magnet to Kurds in both those countries.

Baghdad’s army is moving on Kirkuk to prevent its amputation from Iraq in any civil war of secession by the Kurds.

Where does Iran stand in all of this?

In the war against ISIS, they were de facto allies. For ISIS, like al-Qaida, is Sunni and hates Shiites as much as it hates Christians. But if the U.S. intends to use the SDF to capture the Iraqi-Syrian border, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Russia could all be aligned against us.

Are we ready for such a clash?

We Americans are coming face to face with some new realities.

The people who are going to decide the future of the Middle East are the people who live there. And among these people, the future will be determined by those most willing to fight, bleed and die for years and in considerable numbers to realize that future.

We Americans, however, are not going to send another army to occupy another country, as we did Kuwait in 1991, Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq in 2003.

Bashar Assad, his army and air force backed by Vladimir Putin’s air power, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, and Hezbollah won the Syrian civil war because they were more willing to fight and die to win it. And, truth be told, all had far larger stakes there than did we.

We do not live there. Few Americans are aware of what is going on there. Even fewer care.

Our erstwhile allies in the Middle East naturally want us to fight their 21st-century wars, as the Brits got us to help fight their 20th-century wars.

But Donald Trump was not elected to do that. Or so at least some of us thought.


Catalan government will not respond to Madrid’s order on Thursday: TV3

October 16, 2017


MADRID (Reuters) – Catalan authorities will not respond on Thursday to the Spanish government’s order that they clarify whether they have declared independence from Spain, Catalonia’s TV3 reported on Monday, citing sources.

Catalan head Carles Puigdemont failed on Monday to respond to an ultimatum to answer “yes” or “no” and Madrid has now given him until Thursday to change his mind – saying it would suspend Catalonia’s autonomy if he chose secession.

Reporting by Paul Day; Writing by Angus Berwick; Editing by Sonya Dowsett


 The great thaw of America’s north is coming

One of the most profound effects of a warming world is underway on US soil – the impact will force thousands to relocate, and have far-reaching, global consequences.

October 16, 2017

by Sara Goudarzi

BBC News

Vladimir Romanovsky walks through the dense black spruce forest with ease. Not once does he stop or slow down to balance himself on the cushy moss beneath his feet insulating the permafrost.

It’s a warm day in July, and the scientist is looking for a box that he and his team have installed on the ground. It’s hidden nearly six miles (10km) north of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, where he’s a professor of geophysics and heads the Permafrost Laboratory.

The box, which is covered by tree branches, contains a data collector connected to a thermometer installed below ground for measuring permafrost temperature at different depths. Permafrost is any earth material that remains at or below 0C (32F) for at least two consecutive years.

Romanovsky connects his laptop to the data collector to transfer the temperature data for this location – called Goldstream III – which he will later add to an online database accessible to both scientists and interested individuals.

“Permafrost is defined on the basis of temperature, the parameter that characterises its stability,” Romanovsky says.

When the temperature of permafrost is below 0C (32F), for example -6C (21F), it is considered stable and will take a long time to thaw or to change. If it’s close to 0C, however, it’s considered vulnerable.

Every summer the portion of soil overlaying the permafrost, called the active layer, thaws, before refreezing the following winter. At Goldstream III, on this July day, the summer thaw currently ends at 50cm depth.

As the Earth warms and summer temperatures climb, the thaw is deepening and expanding, causing the permafrost underneath to become less stable

The consequences, if this thawing continues, will be profound, for Alaska – and for the world. Nearly 90% of the state is covered in permafrost, which means entire villages will need to be relocated, as the foundations of buildings and roads crumble. And if this frozen cache releases the millennia of accumulated carbon it has locked within, it could accelerate the warming of our planet – far beyond our ability to control it.

A vulnerable state

As permafrost thaws, houses, roads, airports and other infrastructure built on the frozen ground can crack and even collapse.

“We are seeing some increased maintenance on existing roads over permafrost,” says Jeff Currey, materials engineer for Northern Region of the Alaska Department of Transportation Public Facilities. “One of our maintenance superintendents recently told me his folks are having to patch settling areas on the highways he’s responsible for more frequently than they were 10 or 20 years ago.”

Similarly, infrastructure built underground – such as those for utilities – is suffering as temperatures rise.

“In Point Lay – on the coast in northwest Alaska – for instance, they’re having all sorts of trouble with their water and sewer lines buried in permafrost soil,” says William Schnabel, director of the Water & Environmental Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “The permafrost soil has thawed and we get water and line breaks because the ground shifts.”

The concern is even more pronounced for those living in rural areas who don’t have enough funds to combat the effects of thawing permafrost. For those residents it’s not just about collapsing buildings, which is common now, but also water supply.

Similarly, infrastructure built underground – such as those for utilities – is suffering as temperatures rise.

“In Point Lay – on the coast in northwest Alaska – for instance, they’re having all sorts of trouble with their water and sewer lines buried in permafrost soil,” says William Schnabel, director of the Water & Environmental Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. “The permafrost soil has thawed and we get water and line breaks because the ground shifts.”

The concern is even more pronounced for those living in rural areas who don’t have enough funds to combat the effects of thawing permafrost. For those residents it’s not just about collapsing buildings, which is common now, but also water supply.

Often as permafrost thaws on the side of a lake that a village might use as water supply, there’s a breach and a lateral drain occurs. “It usually requires pretty expensive infrastructure to take water from a lake, bring it to a village and store it and all the components of this infrastructure are vulnerable to thawing permafrost,” Romanovsky says.

If a village depends on an affected lake for water, the community members would have to move their infrastructure and sometimes their entire village to another lake, which can be very costly.

According to research conducted by US Geological Survey, villages like Kivalina in north-west Alaska will have to move within the next 10 years, Romanovsky explains. “But estimates show cost of moving is about $200m (£150m) per village of 300 people.”

Those kinds of sums are only possible with federal government funding – but there are also no guarantees that a new location wouldn’t be affected eventually too.

“I think by now there are 70 villages who really have to move because of thawing permafrost,” Romanovsky says. “But moving villages to another location on permafrost is very difficult to guarantee for 30 years or so and the federal government doesn’t want to pay for something they have to pay for again.”

It’s possible that building Alaskan settlements on permafrost may also be making the problem worse. “When you think about water and sewers you have to keep those above freezing and when you have permafrost you have to keep that below freezing,” Schnabel says. “So you’re running relatively warm water through the permafrost and there’s going to be some heat dissipation in there.”

Those kinds of sums are only possible with federal government funding – but there are also no guarantees that a new location wouldn’t be affected eventually too.

“I think by now there are 70 villages who really have to move because of thawing permafrost,” Romanovsky says. “But moving villages to another location on permafrost is very difficult to guarantee for 30 years or so and the federal government doesn’t want to pay for something they have to pay for again.”

It’s possible that building Alaskan settlements on permafrost may also be making the problem worse. “When you think about water and sewers you have to keep those above freezing and when you have permafrost you have to keep that below freezing,” Schnabel says. “So you’re running relatively warm water through the permafrost and there’s going to be some heat dissipation in there.”

“If we maintain our current course of operation, business as usual they call that, then it’s pretty certain by 2100 a significant fraction of the permafrost in the upper five metres would thaw out and with it all the organic matter that is currently frozen in the permafrost,” says Kevin Schaefer, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “That would indicate a release of carbon dioxide and methane, which would amplify the warming due to the burning of fossil fuels.”

In fact, in a 2012 report published in the journal Nature, Schaefer and his co-authors indicated that past sudden warming events were essentially triggered by the release of carbon dioxide and methane from permafrost some 50 million years ago in Antarctica.

And the projected numbers don’t look promising: “Theoretically if this carbon is released to the atmosphere, the amount of CO2 will be three times more than what is in there [in the atmosphere] now,” says Romanovsky.

So it’s a true feedback loop as it amplifies the warming due to the burning of fossil fuels. And despite the fact that the warming is accelerating, the feedback effects will be gradual, taking time to be noticeable. “It’s a very slow feedback,” Schaefer says.  “Imagine trying to steer a steam ship with a canoe paddle, that’s the kind of feedback we’re talking about.”

Unfortunately, once permafrost starts to thaw, it’ll be hard to refreeze it again – at least in our lifetime. Furthermore, once the decay is out of the ground and into the atmosphere, there’s no easy way to put that carbon back into the ground.

“The only way to do that would be to lower the global temperature and refreeze the permafrost, which would mean you’re removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” Schaefer says.

Climate models show that current intergovernmental commitments to reduce warming – as laid out by the Paris Climate Accord – may not be enough, Romanovsky explains.

In a 2016 report published in Nature Climate Change, researchers Sarah Chadburn and colleagues estimate that even if the climate was stabilised as agreed upon by the 196 parties in 2015, “the permafrost area would eventually be reduced by over 40%”.

However, with US President Donald Trump’s announcement of withdrawal from the Paris agreement last June, more permafrost loss is likely on the horizon.

The blame game

Alaska is a politically conservative state, so outsiders might assume that residents reject the idea that the planet is warming beyond our control. The truth is more complex.

According to a poll of 750 participants conducted earlier this year by the Alaska Dispatch News, more than 70% of Alaskans are concerned about the effects climate change.

“In Alaska anybody you ask will say ‘yes there’s warming,’” Romanovsky says. “The farther north you go, northwest especially, the stronger that feeling. Because it’s happening, you see it. Of course, the question of who’s responsible depends on political beliefs.”

At Denali National Park & Preserve, park ranger Anna Moore has witnessed warming affect wildlife across only a couple of years. She’s noticed that the Arctic hare, which switches between brown and white coat colours with the seasons can’t seem to keep up with the changes as a result of temperature rise, essentially putting itself at risk.

“In the wintertime they get white tips to their hair,” Moore says. “As it gets warmer, the snow is melting faster, but their bodies are acclimatised to certain temperature change and so even though the snow is already melting they’re still white and in more danger from predators

Moore says though she believes in climate change and is watching it affect flora and fauna at the park, she considers it a result of both human activities and a natural cycle.

Her colleague Ashley Tench also echoes the sentiment: “I agree with her [on] how it’s part man-made and also natural.” To that effect, Tench doesn’t believe the United States’ pullout of the Paris Agreement makes a difference in the climate.

But not everyone in Alaska is on board with that sentiment. To Bill Beaudoin, a retired submariner and educator who’s now the proprietor of a bed and breakfast in Fairbanks, it’s obvious that humans are to blame and that we should work on reversing the effects of our actions.

“I think the Paris climate accord was necessary,” he says. “In fact, I didn’t think [it was] enough. There’s one country, Nigeria, that didn’t sign on to the agreement because they didn’t think it was strong enough. I would probably side with Nigeria on that issue.”

No matter who is to blame for the warming and resulting thaw of permafrost, Alaskans are for the most part concerned about their future.

“People are worried, because of course there’s no insurance for thawing permafrost,” Romanovsky says. “Insurance is not covering damage from permafrost like it does in California for earthquakes.”

Back at Goldstream III, Romanovsky notes that at 50cm depth, the temperature of the soil is -0.04C (31.9F). At one metre it’s -0.23C (31.5F).  The last time he checked the data was in March, where at one metre, the soil temperature measured -1.1C (33.9F).

He takes his shovel and makes a hole in the ground to look at the soil and check for carbon within. Darker soil indicates accumulated organic carbon. The further down he digs, the colder the soil gets. Romanovsky digs until the shovel hits the permafrost and seemingly can’t go any further.

He pushes down a bit more and manages to dig up a bit of the permafrost – about the size of a small coin. Seconds after he holds the frozen soil between his fingers it melts as if it were an ice cube. He returns the dug up dirt back into the hole, disconnects his laptop from the data collector, closes up the box and covers it up with branches and packs up to leave the site. In a week he’ll head up north to log the temperature at other sites adding yet more data to one of the most comprehensive permafrost databases in the world.

Meanwhile, bit by bit, America’s frozen north is thawing and what happens next is unknown. What’s certain is the great thaw will forever change a once-familiar landscape – and likely a planet and its inhabitants too.


The Legacy of Reagan’s Civilian ‘Psyops’

When the Reagan administration launched peacetime “psyops” in the mid-1980s, it pulled in civilian agencies to help spread these still-ongoing techniques of deception and manipulation

October 13, 2017

by Robert Parry

Consortium News

Declassified records from the Reagan presidential library show how the U.S. government enlisted civilian agencies in psychological operations designed to exploit information as a way to manipulate the behavior of targeted foreign audiences and, at least indirectly, American citizens.A just-declassified sign-in sheet for a meeting of an inter-agency “psyops” committee on Oct. 24, 1986, shows representatives from the Agency for International Development (USAID), the State Department, and the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) joining officials from the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Department.

Some of the names of officials from the CIA and Pentagon remain classified more than three decades later. But the significance of the document is that it reveals how agencies that were traditionally assigned to global development (USAID) or international information (USIA) were incorporated into the U.S. government’s strategies for peacetime psyops, a military technique for breaking the will of a wartime enemy by spreading lies, confusion and terror.

Essentially, psyops play on the cultural weaknesses of a target population so they could be more easily controlled or defeated, but the Reagan administration was taking the concept outside the traditional bounds of warfare and applying psyops to any time when the U.S. government could claim some threat to America.

This disclosure – bolstered by other documents released earlier this year by archivists at the Reagan library in Simi Valley, California – is relevant to today’s frenzy over alleged “fake news” and accusations of “Russian disinformation” by reminding everyone that the U.S. government was active in those same areas.

The U.S. government’s use of disinformation and propaganda is, of course, nothing new. For instance, during the 1950s and 1960s, the USIA regularly published articles in friendly newspapers and magazines that appeared under fake names such as Guy Sims Fitch.

However, in the 1970s, the bloody Vietnam War and the Pentagon Papers’ revelations about U.S. government deceptions to justify that war created a crisis for American propagandists, their loss of credibility with the American people. Some of the traditional sources of U.S. disinformation, such as the CIA, also fell into profound disrepute.

This so-called “Vietnam Syndrome” – a skeptical citizenry dubious toward U.S. government claims about foreign conflicts – undermined President Reagan’s efforts to sell his plans for intervention in the civil wars then underway in Central America, Africa and elsewhere.

Reagan depicted Central America as a “Soviet beachhead,” but many Americans saw haughty Central American oligarchs and their brutal security forces slaughtering priests, nuns, labor activists, students, peasants and indigenous populations.

Reagan and his advisers realized that they had to turn those perceptions around if they hoped to get sustained funding for the militaries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras as well as for the Nicaraguan Contra rebels, the CIA-organized paramilitary force marauding around leftist-ruled Nicaragua.

Perception Management

So, it became a high priority to reshape public perceptions inside those targeted countries but even more importantly among the American people. That challenge led the Reagan administration to revitalize and reorganize methods for distributing propaganda and funding friendly foreign operatives, such as creation of the National Endowment for Democracy under neoconservative president Carl Gershman in 1983.

Another entity in this process was the Psychological Operations Committee formed in 1986 under Reagan’s National Security Council. In the years since, the U.S. administrations, both Republican and Democratic, have applied many of these same psyops principles, cherry-picking or manufacturing evidence to undermine adversaries and to solidify U.S. public support for Washington’s policies.

This reality – about the U.S. government creating its own faux reality to manipulate the American people and international audiences – should compel journalists in the West to treat all claims from Washington with a large grain of salt.

However, instead, we have seen a pattern of leading news outlets simply amplifying whatever U.S. agencies assert about foreign adversaries while denouncing skeptics as purveyors of “fake news” or enemy “propaganda.” In effect, the success of the U.S. psyops strategy can be measured by how Western mainstream media has stepped forward as the enforcement mechanism to ensure conformity to the U.S. government’s various information themes and narratives.

For instance, any questioning of the U.S. government’s narratives on, say, the current Syrian conflict, or the Ukraine coup of 2014, or Russian “hacking” of the 2016 U.S. election, or Iran’s status as “the leading sponsor of terrorism” is treated by the major Western news outlets as evidence that you are a “useful fool” at best, if not a willful enemy “propagandist” with loyalty to a foreign power, i.e., a traitor.

Leading mainstream media outlets and establishment-approved Web sites are now teaming up with Google, Facebook and other technology companies to develop algorithms to bury or remove content from the Internet that doesn’t march in lockstep with what is deemed to be true, which often simply follows what U.S. government agencies say is true.

Yet, the documentary evidence is now clear that the U.S. government undertook a well-defined strategy of waging psyops around the world with regular blowback of this propaganda and disinformation onto the American people via Western news agencies covering events in the affected countries.

During more recent administrations, euphemisms have been used to cloak the more pejorative phrase, “psychological operations” – such as “public diplomacy,” “strategic communications,” “perception management,” and “smart power.” But the serious push to expand this propaganda capability of the U.S. government can be traced back to the Reagan presidency.

The Puppet Master

Over the years, I’ve obtained scores of documents related to the psyops and related programs via “mandatory declassification reviews” of files belonging to Walter Raymond Jr., a senior CIA covert operations specialist who was transferred to Reagan’s National Security Council staff in 1982 to rebuild capacities for psyops, propaganda and disinformation.

Raymond, who has been compared to a character from a John LeCarré novel slipping easily into the woodwork, spent his years inside Reagan’s White House as a shadowy puppet master who tried his best to avoid public attention or – it seems – even having his picture taken.

From the tens of thousands of photographs from meetings at Reagan’s White House, I found only a couple showing Raymond – and he is seated in groups, partially concealed by other officials.

But Raymond appears to have grasped his true importance. In his NSC files, I found a doodle of an organizational chart that had Raymond at the top holding what looks like the crossed handles used by puppeteers to control the puppets below them. The drawing fits the reality of Raymond as the behind-the-curtains operative who was controlling the various inter-agency task forces that were responsible for implementing psyops and other propaganda strategies.

In Raymond’s files, I found an influential November 1983 paper, written by Col. Alfred R. Paddock Jr. and entitled “Military Psychological Operations and US Strategy,” which stated: “the planned use of communications to influence attitudes or behavior should, if properly used, precede, accompany, and follow all applications of force. Put another way, psychological operations is the one weapons system which has an important role to play in peacetime, throughout the spectrum of conflict, and during the aftermath of conflict.”

Paddock continued, “Military psychological operations are an important part of the ‘PSYOP Totality,’ both in peace and war. … We need a program of psychological operations as an integral part of our national security policies and programs. … The continuity of a standing interagency board or committee to provide the necessary coordinating mechanism for development of a coherent, worldwide psychological operations strategy is badly needed.”

One declassified “top secret” document in Raymond’s file – dated Feb. 4, 1985, from Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger – urged the fuller implementation of President Reagan’s National Security Decision Directive 130, which was signed on March 6, 1984, and which authorized peacetime psyops by expanding psyops beyond its traditional boundaries of active military operations into peacetime situations in which the U.S. government could claim some threat to national interests.

“This approval can provide the impetus to the rebuilding of a necessary strategic capability, focus attention on psychological operations as a national – not solely military – instrument, and ensure that psychological operations are fully coordinated with public diplomacy and other international information activities,” Weinberger’s document said.

An Inter-Agency Committee

This broader commitment to psyops led to the creation of a Psychological Operations Committee (POC) that was to be chaired by a representative of Reagan’s National Security Council with a vice chairman from the Pentagon and with representatives from CIA, the State Department and USIA.

“This group will be responsible for planning, coordinating and implementing psychological operations activities in support of United States policies and interests relative to national security,” according to a “secret” addendum to a memo, dated March 25, 1986, from Col. Paddock, the psyops advocate who had become the U.S. Army’s Director for Psychological Operations.

“The committee will provide the focal point for interagency coordination of detailed contingency planning for the management of national information assets during war, and for the transition from peace to war,” the addendum added. “The POC shall seek to ensure that in wartime or during crises (which may be defined as periods of acute tension involving a threat to the lives of American citizens or the imminence of war between the U.S. and other nations), U.S. international information elements are ready to initiate special procedures to ensure policy consistency, timely response and rapid feedback from the intended audience.”

In other words, the U.S. government could engage in psyops virtually anytime because there are always “periods of acute tension involving a threat to the lives of American citizens.”

The Psychological Operations Committee took formal shape with a “secret” memo from Reagan’s National Security Advisor John Poindexter on July 31, 1986. Its first meeting was called on Sept. 2, 1986, with an agenda that focused on Central America and “How can other POC agencies support and complement DOD programs in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama.” The POC was also tasked with “Developing National PSYOPS Guidelines” for “formulating and implementing a national PSYOPS program.” (Underlining in original)

Raymond was named a co-chair of the POC along with CIA officer Vincent Cannistraro, who was then Deputy Director for Intelligence Programs on the NSC staff, according to a “secret” memo from Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Craig Alderman Jr.

The memo also noted that future POC meetings would be briefed on psyops projects for the Philippines and Nicaragua, with the latter project codenamed “Niagara Falls.” The memo also references a “Project Touchstone,” but it is unclear where that psyops program was targeted.

Another “secret” memo dated Oct. 1, 1986, co-authored by Raymond, reported on the POC’s first meeting on Sept. 10, 1986, and noted that “The POC will, at each meeting, focus on an area of operations (e.g., Central America, Afghanistan, Philippines).”

The POC’s second meeting on Oct. 24, 1986 – for which the sign-in sheet was just released – concentrated on the Philippines, according to a Nov. 4, 1986 memo also co-authored by Raymond.

But the Reagan administration’s primary attention continued to go back to Central America, including “Project Niagara Falls,” the psyops program aimed at Nicaragua. A “secret” Pentagon memo from Deputy Under Secretary Alderman on Nov. 20, 1986, outlined the work of the 4th Psychological Operations Group on this psyops plan “to help bring about democratization of Nicaragua,” by which the Reagan administration meant a “regime change.” The precise details of “Project Niagara Falls” were not disclosed in the declassified documents but the choice of codename suggested a cascade of psyops.

Key Operatives

Other documents from Raymond’s NSC file shed light on who other key operatives in the psyops and propaganda programs were. For instance, in undated notes on efforts to influence the Socialist International, including securing support for U.S. foreign policies from Socialist and Social Democratic parties in Europe, Raymond cited the efforts of “Ledeen, Gershman,” a reference to neoconservative operative Michael Ledeen and Carl Gershman, another neocon who has served as president of the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED), from 1983 to the present. (Underlining in original.)

Although NED is technically independent of the U.S. government, it receives the bulk of its funding (now about $100 million a year) from Congress. Documents from the Reagan archives also make clear that NED was organized as a way to replace some of the CIA’s political and propaganda covert operations, which had fallen into disrepute in the 1970s. Earlier released documents from Raymond’s file show CIA Director William Casey pushing for NED’s creation and Raymond, Casey’s handpicked man on the NSC, giving frequent advice and direction to Gershman. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “CIA’s Hidden Hand in ‘Democracy’ Groups.”]

While the initials USAID conjure up images of well-meaning Americans helping to drill wells, teach school and set up health clinics in impoverished nations, USAID also has kept its hand in financing friendly journalists around the globe.

In 2015, USAID issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.” USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,”

In Ukraine before the 2014 coup, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security,” which sounds a bit like an operation to thwart the local government’s intelligence gathering, an ironic position for the U.S. with its surveillance obsession, including prosecuting whistleblowers based on evidence that they talked to journalists.

USAID, working with billionaire George Soros’s Open Society, also funded the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption.

The USAID-funded OCCRP also collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins, who is now a senior non-resident fellow of the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO think tank that receives funding from the U.S. and allied governments.

Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what looked to be the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in July 2014.

Despite his dubious record of accuracy, Higgins has gained mainstream acclaim, in part, because his “findings” always match up with the propaganda theme that the U.S. government and its Western allies are peddling. Though most genuinely independent bloggers are ignored by the mainstream media, Higgins has found his work touted by both The New York Times and The Washington Post, and Google has included Bellingcat on its First Draft coalition, which will determine which news will be deemed real and which fake.

In other words, the U.S. government has a robust strategy for deploying direct and indirect agents of influence who are now influencing how the titans of the Internet will structure their algorithms to play up favored information and disappear disfavored information.

A Heritage of Lies

During the first Cold War, the CIA and the U.S. Information Agency refined the art of “information warfare,” including pioneering some of its current features like having ostensibly “independent” entities and cut-outs present U.S. propaganda to a cynical public that would reject much of what it hears from government but may trust “citizen journalists” and “bloggers.”

USIA, which was founded in 1953 and gained new life in the 1980s under its Reagan-appointed director Charles Wick, was abolished in 1999, but its propaganda functions were largely folded into the new office of Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, which became a new fount of disinformation.

For instance, in 2014, President Obama’s Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy Richard Stengel engaged in a series of falsehoods and misrepresentations regarding Russia’s RT network. In one instance, he claimed that the RT had made the “ludicrous assertion” that the U.S. had invested $5 billion in the regime change project in Ukraine. But that was an obvious reference to a public speech by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland on Dec. 13, 2013, in which she said “we have invested more than $5 billion” to help Ukraine to achieve its “European aspirations.”

Nuland also was a leading proponent of the Ukraine coup, personally cheering on the anti-government rioters. In an intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland discussed how “to glue” or “midwife this thing” and who the new leaders would be. She picked Arseniy Yatsenyuk – “Yats is the guy” – who ended up as Prime Minister after elected President Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown.

Despite all the evidence of a U.S.-backed coup, The New York Times simply ignored the evidence, including the Nuland-Pyatt phone call, to announce that there never was a coup. The Times’ obeisance to the State Department’s false narrative is a good example of how the legacy of Walter Raymond, who died in 2003, extends to the present.

Over several decades, even as the White House changed hands from Republicans to Democrats, the momentum created by Raymond continued to push the peacetime psyops strategy forward.

In more recent years, the wording of the program may have changed to more pleasing euphemisms. But the idea is the same: how you can use psyops, propaganda and disinformation to sell U.S. government policies abroad and at home.

CIA Control of the Internet

From a CIA position paper

October 17, 2017

by Christian Jürs

1 Internet access can be controlled or its use directed according to the server configuration, thus creating an excellent disinformation weapon.  In previous times, a national media report that was deemed to be offensive or problematical to the government could be censored, or removed at governmental request. Now, however, the government cannot control the present Internet in the same manner in which it has previously controlled the public media. The Internet permits uncensored and unfiltered versions of events, personalities and actions to be disseminated worldwide in seconds and the so-called “blogs,” chat rooms and websites are almost completely uncontrolled and uncontrollable. This unfortunate situation permits versions of events to find a far wider and far more instantaneous audience than the standard print and, to a lesser degree, the television mediums ever could.

  1. The Internet can be used to send coded messages that cannot be interdicted by any government or law-enforcement agency. If man has devised a code or protection program that is supposed to be unbreakable, it is axiomatic that another man can break it. Even the DoD’s algorithmic field codes were easily broken by the Russian GRU during the initial stages of the Iraqi war and it is now known that CIA/USIA codes were also broken, allowing hostile entities to read Top Secret messages. In unfortunately many cases, individual computer experts are more skilled than their counterparts in the government and while, indeed, their encryptions can be broken, they can only be done so by exerting a great deal of effort and when this happens, new encryptions and firewalls can be almost instantly reerected.

3.The Internet can be utilized to steal and disseminate highly damaging, sensitive government or business data. Although highly sensitive official websites are routinely put under strict control, it seems that intruders always seem to succeed in breaking into them. Once this has happened, highly sensitive, and even damaging, information can, and has, been removed and put out on the Internet without any form of control

4.The Internet permits anti-government groups or individuals with few resources to offset the efforts of far larger, and far better funded, government and its national media sources. This is known as the ‘David and Goliath’ syndrome and is a subject of constant concern to all government agencies. Hitherto secure systems can be broken into, information can be extracted or the site (s) can be infected with malicious viruses and destroyed. All it takes to do this is a relatively inexpensive computer, programs that unfortunately are available to individuals seeking them. The best and most effective manner to deal with this kind of threat is the dummy site, designed to lure potential dissidents into joining with it. Skillful questioning of new members has been known to develop important leads to be followed up by conventional law enforcement methods.

5.The Internet can be used to create serious disruptions of governmental agencies and the business communities. It is known that certain dissidents, either as individuals or as groups, have developed devastating computer viruses. These viruses, which are capable of destroying large banks of computer information, both governmental or business. These rumors are very persistent and it is strongly believed that they exist as a dormant entity that can lie concealed in a target system until activated by some kind of a trigger mechanism.

  1. The Internet can serve as an excellent tool for organizing groups of anti-government individuals. (Redacted)
  2. The Internet can be used to expose government actions and military operations in advance of said actions. The immense proliferation of Internet sites has made it possible for adverse elements to break into hitherto secure systems, extract highly sensitive information and either supply it to foreign intelligence agencies such as the Russian SVR or the Israeli Mossad or simply to either publish it or mail it out. A discussion of foreign-based official U.S. computer hacking can be found elsewhere and this study deals solely with ad hoc domestic dissidents.
  3. The Internet is capable of hiding the identities of those launching attacks on the actions and personnel of various government agencies. (Redacted)

9.The Internet can materially assist an underfunded, anti-government group to raise money for continued operations. The use of such firms as PayPal facilitate the relatively secure transfer of money. Again, although it is possible to pressure such firms officially, if one agrees to cooperate, it is only a matter of time that this information will be leaked. We have once had excellent cooperation from SBC, ATT and AOL in conducting overview of millions of system users but lawsuits and Internet activists have published this information, rendering this valuable cooperation null and void.

10.The Internet can be utilized to locate and publicize the personnel of government agencies. It is routine practice in the CIA to have the DoS Passport Division issue official U.S. passports to our operatives working outside the country in names other than their own. The discovery of the real names of the passport holders could result in this material being maliciously posted on the Internet and this could not only subject the agent to serious compromise in the country they are operating in but can also subject them to local exposure and often contempt and harassment.

  1. The Internet is capable of limiting the risk of identification of the members of anti-government groups. The FBI, which is responsible for overview and action against counter-terrorism inside the United States. With the advent of the Internet, identification and penetration of anti-government groups has proven to be nearly impossible. The main cause of this failure is due almost entirely to the Internet which has proven a haven for dissidents of all kinds. Given that all domestic telephone calls and all Internet email is readily available to various domestic law enforcement agencies, it is still a monumental task to track and identify possible activists and other anti-government individuals or groups. We have assisted in setting up dummy anti-government sites, peopled them with professionals and provided them with almost-believable information to post for the purpose of establishing importance and also in disseminating disinformation. Persons viewing these sites can readily be identified and tracked, Further, we have an ongoing relationship with several information sites, such as Google, and whenever any viewer seeks information on subjects we deem as potentially negative, this information is automatically forwarded to the concerned agency.
  2. The Internet, while impossible to control, is also an excellent recruiting ground for sympathetic or easily-convinced “bloggers” who will quickly disseminate official dissemination for pay or public acclaim. It is invaluable to distract the public from questioning various governmental actions, both domestic and foreign. For this reason, our organization, and others, have “disinformation” centers that prepare information of a sensational nature which is then released to paid sources who, in turn, disseminate it onto the Internet. The purpose of this is to create a cloaking movement that will point the curious into innocuous areas. As a case in point, it was imperative to prevent the public sector from looking too deeply into the origins of the 9/11 attacks. To prevent exposure of the actions of members of the top levels of government in this attack, many stories were released, over a long period, to the public through wholly-controlled sites. Claims of devious plots, mystery methodologies, and often laughable conclusions have proven to be extraordinarily effective in constructive diversion. The collapse of the WTC buildings have been attributed to Thermite bombs, clouds of plasmoid gas and other nonsense but a very gullible American public has easily swallowed all of the fictions. As another example, the DoD has always under-declared its casualty rates in Iraq and Afghanistan because a full accounting could easily lead to public discomfiture and resulting action.

13.The Internet can be utilized to create an atmosphere of fear or of compliancy in furtherance of official policy. This is a particular ploy that worked very effectively during the two Bush administrations. A constant, on-going threat of vague “terrorist” actions inside the United States was material in gaining, and keeping, public support for the actions of the aforesaid administration. However, it must be noted, that threats must occasionally be proven to be true or too many “duds” tend to dull the public sense and, if continued, will lead to disillusion and anger.

14.The Internet can be an outstanding command and control mechanism in the marshalling of public opinion in support of a government program.

To be continued….


Envisioning an America Free From Police Violence and Control

October 15 2017

by Rashmee Kumar

The Intercept

Images from the mass protests in St. Louis last month against the acquittal of a white former police officer in the fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith felt like déjà vu: raised fists, Black Lives Matter signs, swarms of police armed in full riot gear. But this time, as police made arrests on the third night of protests, they began to chant “Whose streets, our streets” — a refrain that, stolen from the voices of protesters, mutated into an unsettling declaration of power, entitlement, and impunity.

So far this year, 773 people have been fatally shot by police, according to the Washington Post, while independent databases that include other causes of death by police report tolls above 900. In the three years since the flashpoint of Michael Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, pushes for reform have reverberated through all levels of government, most notably from former President Barack Obama’s policing task force. And yet, much like gun violence itself, police brutality in the United States remains stuck on repeat. A new book published last week goes beyond the rhetoric of reform to interrogate why we need police at all.

In “The End of Policing,” Alex S. Vitale argues that police reforms implemented in the wake of Brown’s death — from diversity initiatives to community policing to body cameras — fail to acknowledge that policing as an institution reinforces race and class inequalities by design.

“The suppression of workers and the tight surveillance and micromanagement of black and brown lives have always been at the center of policing,” writes Vitale, a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College.

Vitale calls for an ideological reframing of policing as an inherently punitive practice that criminalizes the most vulnerable and marginalized people in the U.S. in order to maintain the status quo for white elites. Instead, he writes, people should be given the programs and resources they need to solve problems within communities in ways that do not involve police, courts, or prisons — a path to materializing justice.

Starting with the “original police force,” the London Metropolitan Police, Vitale provides a succinct historical framework to understand how police in the U.S. were created to control poor and nonwhite people and communities. The modern war on drugs can be traced back to “political opportunism and managing ‘suspect populations’” in the 20th century. The increasingly intensified policing of the U.S.-Mexico border today stems from nativist sentiment and economic exploitation of migrant workers starting in the 1800s. Surveillance and suppression of political movements takes root in imperialist Europe, when ruling powers used secret police to infiltrate and eliminate the opposition.

“The End of Policing” maps how law enforcement has become an omnipresent specter in American society over the last four decades. Police are deployed to monitor and manage a sprawling range of issues: drugs, homelessness, mental health, immigration, school safety, sex work, youth violence, and political resistance. Across this spectrum, current liberal reforms are intertwined with upholding the legitimacy of police, courts, and incarceration as conduits to receive access to resources and care. Vitale’s approach goes beyond working within the carceral system to propose non-punitive alternatives that would eventually render policing obsolete. He convincingly argues that a combination of community-based programs, support services, regulation, economic investment, and political representation for poor communities of color can significantly shrink the impact of policing in exchange for justice and community empowerment.

In a time when the president of the United States openly supports and facilitates aggressive policing, and police officers continue to kill black Americans with impunity, “The End of Policing” is an essential primer to unpack the innate brutality of policing and begin to envision an America free from police violence and control.

The Intercept’s interview with Vitale has been condensed and edited for clarity.

There have been a host of reforms proposed in reaction to the shootings of black Americans by police in the last three years. How does your book address the shortcomings of these reforms?

The bad news is that at the national level, any hope of the federal government bringing about some kind of progressive reform has largely evaporated. The reforms that existed under the Obama administration were pretty limited in scope and their effectiveness is open to question. The good news is that the vast majority of decision-making about police reform happens at the local level, and local political pressure can really make a difference. But the bad news about that is that the kinds of reforms most people are advocating for I don’t think are going to make a substantial difference. Some improvements in training, policy, and accountability may lead to a reduction in deaths, but it won’t address the larger question of overpolicing.

What we’ve seen in the last 40 years is an explosive increase in the scope and intensity of policing. Everything from the war on drugs to the war on terror to the war on disorder is driving a set of police practices that are invasive and aggressive, and the deaths we see on the nightly news are the tip of an iceberg of policing experienced in poor communities, especially poor communities of color. There is very little empirical support for a lot of the reforms being proposed, like diversifying the police or community policing or implicit bias training. What really needs to be done is we need to dial back the explosive increase in the scope of policing, and quit using the police to solve every kind of social problem.

Your book was written before Donald Trump’s election. In what ways has your outlook on working toward non-punitive police reforms changed under the Trump administration?

It’s changed the political opportunities. Trump has attempted to close the door on rational, technocratic, liberal reforms to policing for this “Blue Lives Matter” approach that policing shouldn’t be the last resort, it should be the first resort, to address all kinds of problems in a world divided between good and bad people, and it’s the police who keep the two sides separated. This is a horribly inaccurate and counterproductive view of the world, both for him and for those who support this viewpoint in the law enforcement community. My hope is that in the absence of any kind of progress on a liberal reform agenda, people will be open to thinking about more systemic reforms.

You write about the origins of modern policing, in which you debunk the mythology constructed around police as protectors and crime fighters who keep the public safe. Can you talk a bit about the real reasons why policing exists?

We should understand policing as the most coercive form of state power … and the reason is that policing has historically and inherently been at the root of reproducing fundamental inequalities of race, class, and immigration status. Trump, the police, ICE — this is just a continuation of a history of exclusion and repression going back to the exclusion of Chinese immigrants in the 19th century, Texas Rangers driving out Mexican landholders and indigenous populations to make room for white settlers, the transformation of slave patrols and urban slave management systems into what became Jim Crow policing in the South and ghetto policing in the North. Police have historical origins in relation to both the formation and disciplining of the industrial working class; early 19th century forms of policing in Europe and the United States shaped rural agricultural workers into urban industrial workers, and then suppressed their movements to form labor unions and win better living conditions.

The point of all this is to fundamentally question this liberal notion that police exist primarily as a tool for public safety and therefore, we should embrace their efforts uncritically, when in fact, there are lots of different ways to produce safety that don’t come with the baggage of colonialism, slavery, and the suppression of workers’ movements.

There’s a refrain throughout your book that the policing and incarceration of marginalized people is ultimately far more expensive than non-carceral alternatives. So why isn’t the government pursuing cost-saving measures that would also better people’s lives?

A lot of research about police practices is couched in terms of effectiveness — can we show some improvement in an outcome like recidivism or crime rates? But there’s very little attention to any notion of justice and the political context in which these decisions are made, the implications of these processes on the people subjected to them, or the alternative ways to achieve the same ends. So we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to cycle people through jails, courts, emergency rooms, homeless shelters, and their lives never get any better. And ultimately, the community is not significantly improved either. So if we did any kind of cost-benefit calculation that took this into consideration, we would do something different.

The problem is we’re caught up in an ideological battle, in which the politics of austerity and a neoconservative commitment to punitiveness as a response to social discord means that we don’t ever get a chance to assess a series of possible options to address community problems. Most people, if they really felt they had options, would say, well, we need some youth programs, supportive housing, community-based mental health care. If we could use the resources that are being spent on police, jails, prisons, and courts, there would be plenty of money to invest in those kinds of solutions, but at all levels of government, they’re just never on the table.

We continually discover evidence of police engaging in the surveillance and suppression of social movements, in which there’s no real allegation of criminality. From the suppression of Occupy Wall Street and the anti-Dakota Access Pipeline movement to the surveillance of Black Lives Matter, that’s becoming clearer. These have occurred under both [the Obama and Trump] administrations, but more importantly, they’ve occurred in mostly Democratic cities governed by Democratic mayors with democratically appointed police commissioners. What’s important to them is that politics be channeled into a very narrow conceptualization of liberal electoral politics, and anything that can’t be is fundamentally illegitimate, disruptive, and disorderly, and should be surveilled and, if necessary, suppressed. And the police have always been at the center of that process.

Many places around the world and some parts of the U.S. have decriminalized or legalized certain drugs or sex work. What are the challenges around attempting to legitimize these underground economies that are so heavily moralized against?

It’s very important politically for neoconservatives to define crime and disorder in moralistic terms because the alternative would be to acknowledge the role of markets and the state — that black markets are a product of a lack of economic opportunities. Instead, neoconservatives criminalize on moralistic terms so that drugs can’t be understood as a public health problem with origins that may be linked to the deindustrialization of rural America, the entrenched poverty of urban America, the pharmaceutical industry and flooding the market with cheap opioid pills. [Drug use] is framed in terms of “Just Say No” and punitive sanctions for those who don’t go along with it. So whether it’s prostitution, drug abuse, kids acting out in school, shoplifting — these are all framed in moral terms, which closes off the possibility of any kind of conversation about how to reduce the harms and the demand. I try to undermine those moralistic arguments and think about the people involved in these black markets as full human beings, whose well-being should be part of any calculation on how to address these issues and understand that the historic role of police in managing these problems has been primarily counterproductive.

You write about restorative justice as an example of non-punitive alternatives to policing. Can you talk about what this model looks like in schools, as well as in communities grappling with violence?

Restorative justice is a mechanism that’s designed to resolve social problems in non-punitive ways by trying to identify what the underlying forces are behind problematic behavior and, instead of using punishment and exclusion to respond to that behavior, drawing that person in and trying to figure out what can be done to both repair them and whatever harm their problematic behavior has produced.

The place where this has gotten the most traction has been in schools. These systems typically involve peer adjudication, where students work with students engaged in problematic behavior to try to identify the behaviors and causes of those behaviors, and then come up with some solutions. Often, the problem is coming from outside the school, something going on at home or in the community, but sometimes it’s coming from within the school, like bullying. We had a horrible stabbing here in New York City just recently, the first death of a student on campus in many years, and of course, the young person who did the stabbing said they were subjected to long-term, persistent bullying. And what’s going to be done about that? Possibly nothing. Instead, they’re putting metal detectors in the school. So that’s a kind of punitive approach. A restorative justice approach would have created avenues to address that bullying long before it escalated into a violent, deadly confrontation. The whole school community has to be involved — students, teachers, administrators. It requires rethinking how whole disciplinary systems are organized so that problems are identified early, and the goal is to resolve them, not to punish them.

In communities, one of the more interesting models is linked to a concept called justice reinvestment. We know there are neighborhoods where problematic behavior is highly concentrated, and local and state officials spend millions of dollars to police and incarcerate people. What if those communities kept some percentage of people who get arrested in the community and tried to develop strategies for resolving their problems, and in return, the community got the money that would have been spent incarcerating them? We could afford to begin to produce some supportive housing and community-based mental health systems, we could find summer jobs and after-school employment for young people. We could develop services not just for them, but for their parents. These things are cheaper than jails, prisons, and police, and they don’t come with all the collateral consequences of driving people through those punitive systems.

What is the relationship between police abolition and prison abolition?

I think of abolition as a process rather than an outcome. I don’t explicitly go around saying “abolish the police” or “abolish prisons.” Instead, I say that if we understand police and prisons as inherently coercive and punitive and stained with a history of reproducing inequality, those institutions should always be used as a last resort. Instead, we should identify, whenever possible, constructive, restorative, non-punitive solutions to our social problems. And, to the extent we can do that, we reduce our reliance on those deeply problematic institutions.

We need to quit beginning with the premise, Oh, I’ve got a problem, let’s get the police involved. No, I’ve got a problem, and I want to demand that government solve this problem in a way that is ethically and intellectually defensible and will actually produce benefits for the community and those who’ve been the target of punitive approaches.


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